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9 in 10 uni graduates are employed full time.1

Uni grads earn 15-20% more than those without a degree.2

Deakin postgraduates earn 36% more than undergraduates.3

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Turtle in the ocean
How to become a marine scientist

Some people keep both feet planted on solid ground their whole lives. Others follow their fascination for oceans – their beauty, wonder and terror – and continue chasing that throughout their career. Many of these people are marine scientists, and their profession seeks to understand the world we inhabit.

While so much of the world is covered by sea, it’s estimated that only 5% of the oceans have been explored. There’s so much more that needs to be understood about them, and marine scientists delve into the exploration of our marine life. Their careers are nothing less than an adventure into knowledge.

It’s a profession that also plays a significant role in combatting and generating solutions to the threats facing our oceans: climate change, sustainability and loss of biodiversity. If you have not only a love of the ocean, but an undying fascination for it, you could become part of the next generation of marine scientists.

And as the world needs solution-focused people with a love for our environment, there’s never been a better time to turn your passion for the ocean into a career. Dr Prue Francis, a lecturer in science professional practice in Deakin’s School of Life and Environmental Science, worked as an education coordinator for Reef HQ Aquarium for more than three years. If you’re looking for guidance on how to become a marine scientist, here she explains how you can dip your toe into the profession before diving in.

Two students looking at a tulip snail

What are the most important skills held by marine scientists?

‘Marine scientists have the luxury that their workplace takes up 70% of the earth’s surface. Working in this industry informs organisations that are reliant on the ocean for activities including shipping, food production, minerals exploration, energy and leisure industries.

‘As a marine scientist the common skills that are essential to succeed in this field include:

  • scientific writing abilities
  • numerical and statistical skills
  • practical fieldwork skills
  • observational, analytical and problem solving skills
  • creativity
  • communication skills
  • teamwork
  • project management.’

What are a few pros and cons of working in this profession?

‘Pros:

  • Time spent in or near the ocean (e.g. scuba diving/snorkeling, time spent on a research vessel, fieldwork sampling in a marine environment, such as a rocky shore platform on a warm, summers day!)
  • Being part of a global marine team who contribute their knowledge, and generate solutions to global threats facing the world’s oceans.

‘Cons:

  • Marine scientists who suffer from motion sickness.’
'Marine scientists have the luxury that their workplace takes up 70% of the earth’s surface.'

Dr Prue Francis,
School of Life and Environmental Science, Deakin University

What are the study pathway options to become a marine scientist?

‘Usually, someone who is interested in marine science has studied a range of science subjects during high school and from there, has gone on to complete a Bachelor of Marine Science. Depending on what your career interests are, graduates with a bachelor degree can obtain positions in marine science, such as a marine technician in a laboratory or an aquarist in an aquarium.

‘Marine scientists who complete advanced degrees (e.g. masters and/or doctorate) can boost their career options, as it is often the requirement for jobs such as a research scientist in a marine institute.’

What are the best ways to start getting industry experience?

‘First, ensure the degree you choose has options for industry-based placements. Second, gain as much experience as you can by volunteering with local organisations that help conserve and protect the marine environment (e.g. wildlife conservation and marine litter removal groups, and groups that focus on citizen science focused on the marine environment).

‘There are many marine science associations/institutes that you can also become a member of (even as a student) that can provide you with a range of benefits and services to support your professional development, raise your profile, and build your network within the marine science field.’

Two students looking at coral

What are your tips for applying for jobs in this field?

‘My top tip is to be patient – as with any profession, the dream job you have pictured when you first start your degree, may not eventuate straight after graduation.

‘Work your way up to the dream job by creating stepping-stones with other industry-related experiences (during your degree and after). This way, you are building your skills and experience, and when it comes time to submitting your application for your dream job, you will stand out from the crowd.

‘Extra qualifications (whilst not always essential) such as a SCUBA qualification, boating experience (e.g. Coxwain) or first aid training will assist with your application.’

What other career options are worth considering if you’re interested in becoming a marine scientist?

‘If you are interested in this profession, you are most likely interested in the ocean. Other career options that you may be interested in could be a marine engineer, marine educator, marine-related officers for government agencies, or an aquaculturist.’

Excited to dive into a career as a marine scientist? Check out how Deakin can help you reach your dream.

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Dr Prue Francis
Dr Prue Francis

Lecturer in Science Professional Practice, School of Life and Environmental Science, Deakin University

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